Hybrid Meetings & Technology

Over the past year and a half, remote work has become the norm, but as we approach the time when many of us will be able to return to campus on a more regular basis, there are new challenges we'll run into. With the tools and skills gained from this pandemic season, many members of our community will continue to work part of their schedule remotely. The new normal won't be the same as it was before. Running effective meetings has always been challenging. As meetings begin to happen with a greater mix of on-site and remote participants, new practices and technologies are needed to meaningfully and equitably engage with our colleagues, regardless of their location.

As we approach August 16th, and the associated shift in on-campus staffing that brings, the most frequently asked question of CIS has been, by far, what tools, technologies, and practices we have to help people conduct meetings with a mix of on-site and remote participants.

In other words: How do we host effective hybrid meetings? 

Below are some best practices for hybrid meetings and related modes that should be incorporated into your planning for future meetings.


Hybrid Meeting Best Practices

When planning a meeting with an on-site gathering and remote participants, the most important thing to keep in mind is to ensure all participants are equally able to participate. This is a general best practice for any meeting, but is that much more important and harder to achieve for hybrid meetings. As such, special care and setup is required. Read the tips below and contact the CIS HelpDesk if you have specific questions or want a consultation on the best way to conduct hybrid meetings in your workspace.

  • Use video: While it's harder to do well, we strongly encourage setting up your meeting spaces with one or more cameras that can see the on-site participants so that remote participants can too. These can be dedicated cameras for the room, or each participants' laptop camera. Similarly, remote participants should have their video turned on so that their on-site colleagues can see them. This is also true for on-site visual aids like whiteboards or flip-charts. Plan and orient your visuals with a remote participant's view in mind. If you need help selecting, purchasing, or setting up camera(s) in your meeting spaces, we're here to help
  • Level-up your audio: Most meeting spaces on campus were not designed with audio-capture or acoustics in mind. As such, it's important to get a quality speakerphone with an omni-directional microphone and good audio-output to ensure that remote participants can hear and be heard by on-site participants. Likewise, mute any additional microphone sources in the room to avoid echoes and audio feedback during the meeting. Don't rely on a laptop microphone for a large group meeting!  If you just need a speakerphone for a small meeting space, here's one we recommend. If you've got a bigger space or other audio-questions, don't hesitate to reach out to CIS for a consult.
  • Remote folks are real too: In order to ensure that remote participants aren't forgotten or ignored, we recommend that you display their video prominently. Many meeting spaces have a projector or a TV panel available and we highly encourage you to display remote participants' video and orient your seating so that they're seen in the same light as on-site participants. Also, if you're going to present content on the display, don't hide the remote participants, they're still in the meeting! Move their videos to the side of the display, or just have each participant bring up the shared content to view on their own device.
  • Extra attention needed: When facilitating a hybrid meeting, extra care and attention needs to be given to remote participants. It's more difficult for them to indicate they're ready to interject or share something, and they are less able to use non-verbal communication as they engage in the discussion. Facilitators need to pay extra attention to remote participants and should intersperse discussions with explicitly asking if remote folks have things they'd like to add to the conversation.
  • Try it out first: If you haven't run a hybrid meeting before, schedule one with a few colleagues for the explicit purpose of testing out the functionality and technology. See what works and doesn't work in your meeting space and with your team and adjust as necessary.

Virtual Meetings

Just because two more participants are on-site doesn't mean they need to gather together physically. You can still plan the meeting to be virtual with each participant joining the meeting from their own device. People may need to adapt their office space on-campus for this, much as they have had to do so when working remotely, but with that done, you can continue to host some meetings virtually.

This mode has the distinct advantage of entirely leveling the communication field, and is a modality we're all already familiar with. This is a great option if more than half of the participants will be remote.

The Scheduling Solution

If there are days or times when you can do so, schedule meetings when all participants are in the office. Not all situations or times will suit this solution and hybrid or virtual meetings will be necessary, but as deadlines and schedules allow, pushing back a meeting by a few days for when everyone will be on-site (i.e. the old-normal) still works great!

Effective Meetings

"The oft-repeated quip, "I'm sorry to write you a long letter, as I did not have time to write a short one" could be applied to meetings: "I'm sorry to imprison you in this long meeting, as I did not have time to prepare a short one." Effective people develop a recipe for how to make the most of meetings, and they employ their recipes with consistent discipline. And while there are many varieties of good meeting recipes, just as there are many recipes for baking tasty cookies, Drucker highlights two common ingredients: preparation with a clear purpose in mind ("why are we having this meeting?") and disciplined follow-up. Those who make the most of meetings frequently spend substantially more time preparing for the meeting than in the meeting itself. To abuse other people's time by failing to prepare shorter, better meetings amounts to stealing a portion of their lives. And while we must all lead or join meetings, they should be limited to those that do the most useful work; if meetings come to dominate your time, then your life is likely being ill-spent." - Jim Collins on Peter Drucker's Effective Executive re: meetings


Hybrid Meetings

There are many articles and resources out there with additional wisdom and details that are useful in getting the most out of hybrid meetings. Below are a few that we found useful. Let us know if you find others or if there are key considerations we missed!

Effective Meetings

There are many articles and resources out there with additional wisdom and details that are useful in getting the most out of hybrid meetings. Below are a few that we found useful. Let us know if you find others or if there are key considerations we missed!